With both NSW and Victoria hurtling towards more freedoms, there are fears we could end up paying a devastating price.

With both New South Wales and Victoria hurtling towards more freedoms, there are concerns that this could come at a huge cost.

Health experts are cautioning that while people may rejoice in being able to go to the pub again, have picnics, travel and return to work and school, the lifting of restrictions may see a spike in covid cases, pushing hospitals to the brink and resulting in many deaths.

It comes as NSW recorded 1083 new local cases on Sunday and 13 deaths, with the announcement that from Monday several rules will be eased for residents in the 12 Sydney local government areas of concern.

With daily cases hovering around 1500 during the past week, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the numbers are pleasing but warned the worst was yet to come in intensive care hospital wards.

“We are anticipating our worst weeks in ICU and hospitals be in October,” she said. “We are bracing for that and know that our health system is bracing for that and staff are ready for that.

“We are going to see things we have never seen before in our hospital system … images, practices, things done differently.”

Ms Berejiklian said the health care system could be “technically overwhelmed” for most of the month, with the possibility ICUs may surge by around three times their usual capacity, from 530 to 1550 beds.

However, she said “we certainly don’t want it to get anywhere near that 1550 number”.

There are currently 1238 people with Covid-19 admitted to hospitals in NSW with 234 in intensive care, including 123 requiring ventilation.

Meanwhile, Victoria recorded 507 cases and one death on Sunday, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announcing a roadmap, even hinting that his state may open their borders to international travellers before Sydney.

“Faithfully, cautiously, we’re opening this place up. There’s no alternative,” Mr Andrews said.

“There’s a gateway here, it will be challenging, but we’ll pass through it. We can’t have a perpetual suppression of this virus. It will be hard, challenging, on our amazing nurses and doctors and ambos and the whole team in our hospitals.

“We’ll support them, stand with them. If you care about nurses, and doctors, and ambos, cooks and cleaners, everyone in our health system, if they’re important to you, then get vaccinated.”

Timing is key. Mr Andrews said if the state opened up now, with just 45 per cent of people double-dosed, then there would be “a catastrophic number of people who would be very, very ill, and many, many thousands of people would be in intensive care”.

The Burnet Institute modelling, of which the Victoria roadmap is based on, has been released and it predicts the state will reach between 1400 to 2900 daily Covid-19 cases between October 19 and 31. By December, it could peak at 4400.

It also warns of between 936-2202 average daily deaths by December, depending on certain scenarios.

Even without any easing of restrictions, there is a moderate risk of exceeding health system capacity.

The report says: “Based on the current epidemic growth rate, a peak in 7-day average daily diagnoses of 1400-2900 is estimated to occur between 19-31 October. Corresponding peaks in hospital and ICU demand were 1200-2500 and 260-550 respectively, with 24 per cent of

simulations resulting in hospital demand exceeding 2500 beds.”

The roadmap warns that opening up too soon – before people had the chance to get the jab – “would mean our hospital system simply could not cope and catastrophic numbers of Victorians would become seriously unwell”.

It continues: “However, as more and more Victorians get that protection, we move to the next phase of the pandemic and we have the opportunity to open up. The path to being open again will be difficult – but essential to moving forward as a state.”

When Victoria reaches 70 per cent double dose vaccination, changes will include an increase in numbers for public gatherings outdoors, funerals, weddings and religious gatherings – with larger caps for people who are fully vaccinated.

Creative studios, amusement parks, entertainment venues and hospitality will also reopen with limits on numbers, but only to people who are fully vaccinated.

Mr Andrews said the roadmap would constantly be revised for the impact on the state’s healthcare system.

“As we deliver this roadmap, we will monitor every hour of every day. How many people are in hospital? How much pressure is there on our health system? Are with balancing that?”

Healthcare workers are bracing themselves, with one writing on Twitter: “Thanks for saying we’re amazing Dan but could you pay us appropriately for the trauma we’re about to experience.”

“Nurses can have a peak of the pandemic for Christmas,” she continued. “As a treat.”

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By Isak

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